Ahmadinezhad ‘Confident’ Despite Protests

18 June 2009

Iran's protest demonstrations by the supporters of the reformist candidates who lost the last elections is a real test for the ruling religious institution in Tehran, which has never faced such opposition since coming to power 30 years ago.

The demonstrators are demanding the election results be rescinded and new elections held. Sayyid Ali Khameni, the supreme guide, rejects this demand. All that can be offered in exchange for this demand is the re-examination of the polling cards in some constituencies if the opposition candidates were to present convincing evidence and proof of the occurrence of violations or of rigging operations.

The source of the strength of this protest movement is that, first of all, it stems from the heart of the religious system, and that it represents the elite velvet middle class in the capital, Tehran, in addition to the fact that a section of the Iranian youths aspire for change.

If we look at the leaders of the opposition confronting President Ahmadinezhad, we will find that this group includes heavy-weight personalities, who have their supporters in the Iranian street, such as Sayyid Hashemi-Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Council, who won the presidency twice; Sayyid Mohammad Khatami, former president, who also was elected twice; Mir Hoseyn Musavi, former prime minister, and Mehdi Karrubi, speaker of parliament.

This means that the ruling religious institution in Tehran is facing a grave vertical split that can get wider if the current defiant demonstrations were to continue. Since the declaration of the results of the last elections, and the announcement that Ahmadinezhad won with a large majority, these demonstrations have become a daily ritual.

The ruling authorities have dealt with these protests very cleverly. They allowed the demonstrations to take place, and did not deal with them in a bloody way or stage counter demonstrations to clash with the protesters, except in the first day after disturbances and burning of buses took place, and some seven people died and dozens were injured. Also it ought to be recorded for the demonstrators that they follow a correct civilized course in their protest, and that they avoid any clashes that can give the authorities and their security organizations the pretext to use violence against the protesters.

Mr Ahmadinezhad is confident in his win, and even more confident in the support of the supreme guide for him. Thus, he travelled to Moscow to participate in a security conference, and returned to Tehran without showing any signs of being affected or shaken as a result of the continuation of the demonstrations. The source of Ahmadinezhad's strength stems from his modesty, and from his bias in favour of the poor who are the overwhelming majority in Iran. His strength also stems from the fact that the west, particularly the United States and Israel, opposes him and supports his opponents; this is not out of the west's love for his opponents as much as it is out of the wish to destroy the stability of Iran, and to fan the fire of civil war among the ranks of the Iranians.

The Iranian authorities' accusations levelled at the United States of interfering in the Iranian internal affairs in order to accelerate and escalate the protests are correct, even if the US Administrations has hastened to reject them.

It is true that the leaders of the reformist movement have not asked for the help of the United States, and they certainly do not want this help, or any help from any other western country. However, the US hostility to the ruling Iranian institution does not need proof, and these protests have provided a golden opportunity for the US Administration to proceed with its plans to destabilize the Iranian regime.

Interference does not necessarily come in a direct way through help or armies; there is documentary evidence that US intelligence played a major role in escalating similar protests in Georgia and the Ukraine, whether by funds, secret political support, or infiltrating some inciters into the ranks of the protesters.

Most of the western media is mobilized for the benefit of the protesters. The organs of this western media -be they newspapers, television stations, or Internet websites, especially those issued from London and other US cities by Iranian opposition groups -have played a major role in fanning the fire of the demonstrations despite the suppression operations practiced by the Iranian regime's organizations against them, and preventing them from covering the events freely.

It is certain that the Iranian authorities are wagering that the enthusiasm for these demonstrations will fade away, and that the number of participants in them will gradually decrease. However, this wager might fail if two principal issues were to take place. The first issue is that these demonstrations might spread outside the capital; however, this is not likely to happen, because of the great popularity enjoyed by Ahmadinezhad in the countryside and the smaller cities. The second issue is that the patience of the ruling authorities and their security organizations might run out, and they might resort to violence in confronting the protesters.

So far, the ruling religious institution in Iran seems strong and capable of settling the situation in its own favour; but the same thing was said about the Shah's regime when the popular uprising erupted against him. However, there is a major and fundamental difference between the two cases, namely that the overwhelming majority of the Iranians at that time hated the Shah's regime.